CT Center for Patient Safety
CT Center for Patient Safety Newsletter

October 2014
In This Issue
Medication Safety Conference
The painkiller epidemic
New Frontiers In Medical Screening
21st Century Snake Oil
October Health Hints
MED QIPS takes off at Georgetown Medical School

Medication Safety: Your Role on the Team


The CT Partnership for Patient Safety is hosting a conference: Medication Safety: Your Role on the Team. It will be held at Quinnipiac University School of Medicine on Monday, November 10th. Patients and health care professionals alike are strongly encouraged to attend.


The conference will begin where it should, with a patient story. Marian Hollingsworth will share the story of father's downward spiral after receiving a cocktail of antipsychotic drugs for back pain. Over the next two months, he suffered mental decline, dehydration, infection, heart and kidney failure and ultimately death. Following Marian, the audience will hear a pharmacist, a long term care administrator and a nurse specializing in transitions react to her story.

Other events during this conference include another panel discussion on medication problems across the continuum of care and why they occur. The audience will also hear Marie Smith, UConn School of Pharmacy address what patients, doctors, nurses and pharmacists need to do to improve the outcomes of patients across the continuum of care. This conference will offer important takeaways for all attendees.



Vicodin and other prescription painkillers will soon be harder to get


There is an epidemic in our country involving opioid abuse and addiction. According to Consumer Reports, the use of Percocet, Vicodin and other drugs that contain OxyContin has risen 300% in the last ten years.  These drugs are now the most commonly prescribed medications in the U.S. with over 45 people per day dying from overdoses.  In his blog post, Pain and Profit, Stephen R. Smith, M.D. talks about how this problem of over use and addiction has come to be.


In response to rising concerns, the Drug Enforcement Agency has a new ruling going into effect on October 6th that will reclassify hydrocodone-combination products as schedule II controlled substances making them more difficult to get.  For many patients, an original paper prescription will be required to pick up this medication from the pharmacy and refills are not allowed.  Consumer Reports has published an article that goes into

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Beyond The Pink Ribbon  New Frontiers In Screening, Treating and Preventing Cancer


C-Hit, one of the investigative journalist organizations covering health care issues in Connecticut, in collaboration with the Breast Center - Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven is hosting a community forum on breast cancer detection and treatment.  The public is invited to attend this event on Tuesday, Oct. 21, from 5:30-8 p.m.. 


Click here for sign-up information.



 21st Century Snake Oil - Medical Screenings can sometimes be harmful to your health



Have you seen recent ads Life Line Screening urges readers to undergo ultrasound examination of their carotid arteries to help prevent strokes?  Or perhaps, ads from another screening company, Health Fairs, promoting a similar form of cardiac screening?  Well, according to Public Citizen, "the company's heavily promoted, community-wide cardiovascular health screening programs are unethical and are much more likely to do harm than good."  The Choosing Wisely campaign , urges doctors not to screen for carotid artery blockage.  The evidence supports that in healthy adults who show no symptoms of carotid artery stenosis the benefits are outweighed by the potential harm of the screenings.


We also see the use of fear to motivate consumers to get tested for diseases that have long lists of symptoms that almost everyone has experienced at one time or another. Celiac disease and low testosterone are featured prominently on TV ads from pharmaceutical companies causing patients to ask their doctors for medications based on vague symptoms like bloating or fatigue.


In his blog post, 21st Century Snake Oil, Stephen R. Smith, M.D. suggests that we need to see more regulation of health product and services advertising.  He feels that false and misleading ads should be prohibited and says, "We also need to do a much better job letting the public know about trustworthy sources of health information, such as Choosing Wisely and Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs. In this day of iPads and instant information, no one should get snookered into buying 21st century snake oil." 

October Health Hints: 


The Enterovirus has reached Connecticut


The kids are back at school and germs have a way of spreading when larger groups of people are together.  As of Monday, Sep 29th, there have been seven confirmed cases of Enterovirus at Yale-New Haven Hospital. According to the CDC, Enterovirus can cause mild to severe respiratory illness.  Mild symptoms may include fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough, and body and muscle aches. Severe symptoms may include wheezing and difficulty breathing especially in people with asthma. The virus spreads when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or touches contaminated surfaces.  You can protect yourself by washing your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands, avoiding kissing, hugging, and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick and by disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.  There is no vaccine.



Reducing Sodium in Children's Diets

According to the CDC, about 90% of US children ages 6-18 years eat too much sodium daily leading to 1 in 6 children with raised blood pressure.  High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.  The taste for salt is established through diet at a young age. As your children or grandchildren return to school, you should be aware that changing what they eat for lunch and at home can make a significant difference.  It turns out that 10 common types of foods contributed more than 40% of the sodium eaten by children.  You can get more information for you and your children on reducing your sodium intake on this webpage.

MED QIPS takes off at Georgetown Medical School 

I just read a blog post that reinforces my belief that the future holds great hope for a much safer world in terms of medical care. This past summer, I was on the faculty at the Telluride Patient Safety Summer Camp and I was inspired by the participants in the program. They were smart, dedicated and they all believed that they will, in some way, make a difference in medicine in the coming years. The faculty endeavored to provide them with some of the tools that they would need to do this. The wonderful thing is that many of them are going back to the programs that they are part of and they are doing just that: they are changing things. 

In his Not Running A Hospital Blog, Paul Levy tells us about one such group of medical students at Georgetown Medical School. They have started the "the first-ever club for patient safety," MED QIPS which is Medical Students for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety. When you read his blog, you will learn more about this club.      

~Lisa Freeman